Sun bypasses Netscape and Microsoft for Java compatibility

Sun Microsystems on Wednesday announced its "Activator" software that will make the latest Web browsers compatible with Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1 software. Released as a browser Plug-in, Activator works with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.0, neither of which is totally compatible with the JDK 1.1. Sun sued Microsoft earlier this year when Microsoft shipped IE 4.0 with a modified Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

The Activator Plug-in checks applets being loaded into the browser and uses the Sun JVM if the applet requires the JDK 1.1. If the applet requires a JVM that is not installed on the user's machine, Activator will go to the Sun Web site and download the new JVM (the current version is a 3.2 MB download).

The current release of Activator is in beta form for Windows users with Internet Explorer. A Communicator version is due in January, with support for other platforms expected early next year.

Microsoft, for its part, is not impressed with Activator.

"Why would someone want to run a slower Virtual Machine that doesn't integrate well with products already installed on their desktop?" asked Tom Johnston, a group product manager in Microsoft's client platform marketing division. "We're also skeptical about the quality of a product that they seem to have developed so quickly. The up-to-dateness argument seems more pertinent for Navigator than IE. So why are they issuing Activator for IE first? It's hard to write a good Java VM. And we have the undisputed fastest implementation on Win32.

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